Memory and Student Stress Levels

Memory and Student Stress Levels

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Memory and Student Stress Levels

College and university students can experience stressors which can adversely affect memory functions, thus negatively influencing academic performance. It is imperative to look into the matter and possibly develop suitable remedies because stressful events are rampant in educational settings, both for educators and students. Vogel and Schwabe (2016) give examples such as interpersonal conflicts, and exams as some of the many issues that may increase stress levels among students and teachers. The stress, however, can have a significant impact on memory and learning processes, which are vital aspects of the educational system. The study is a literature review of various works on how stress impact on the memory of students. The analysis retrieves relevant scholarly papers from databases, including Google Scholar, Elsevier and ERIC. The databases are suitable because they not only present a large collection of scientific papers but also because they include a broad range of peer reviewed papers. Moreover, these databases serve as vital sources for many researchers in the scientific and non-scientific fields. The study shows that in learners stress can affect how memory is created and can also affect the nature of memories that people form as well, effects that impact on academic performance.

Cornelisse et al. (2010) argue that stress is known to differently regulate how memory works. Hence, they conduct a study with an aim of investigating the impact of stress on month emotional and neutral working memory and long-term memory, in a sample of female and male learners in Netherlands. The study incorporates 77 subjects in total who are subjected to Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), and then taken through a long-term memory task such as interaction with neutral pictures, emotion arousing images, and surprise recalls. The researchers assess alpha-amylase and salivary cortisol levels during the trial. Cornelisse et al. (2010) discovered that concentrations of stress hormone and subjective negative affect states expanded significantly in reaction to stressful encounters. The study revealed that male students respond more to stressors with regard to cortisol reactions than in women (Cornelisse et al., 2010). The researchers attributed the low response in to stress in female students to the use of contraceptives (Cornelisse et al., 2010). Furthermore, the study indicates that stress impacts on memory retrieval in both male and female students and reiterates that disturbed feelings could tamper with overall performance. However, the research has strengths and weaknesses that impact on the outcomes. The evident strength is that the researchers deploy brevity by focusing on key points and avoiding long, unnecessary descriptions and explanations. On the other hand, the study does not give much description on why the researchers select particular research methods. The other limitation with the study is that the researchers do not use any graphical presentation yet the approach could make the work more appealing to the audience. Overall, the paper is still informative despite the identified limitations. Thus, it is important to prevent stress as tutors or learners to avoid comprising memory.

Vogel and Schwabe (2016) argue that stress can affect memory and disrupt the entire learning process. The primary purpose of conducting the research is to find out how stress affects memory and how this impact on the learning process. The authors conduct a systematic literature review while referring to various reliable secondary sources. They use the descriptive data analysis method to analyze collected data, which offers a suitable chance to quantify and describe the primary features of a data set. The data analysis technique permits researchers to organize, shorten, and summarize data. They focus on secondary sources that relate to stress levels among learners and how that affect memory and learning. The research reveals that while stress at the time of learning is thought to improve the formation of memory, thus resulting in robust memories, stress significantly deters memory retrieval, and increases risk of underperforming in exams (Vogel & Schwabe, 2016). Nonetheless, the study has strengths and weaknesses that require considerable attention. The strength of the study is that the researchers use images to make the points clearer and give elaborate description of every point. However, the researchers use old-dated papers to complete the study. Some of the selected papers date as back as the 1990s, which could have some influence on the relevance of the outcomes in the contemporary times. Borrowing valuable information from the paper may help to avoid incidences that cause stress among learners and make it possible to increase performance.

Further analysis indicate that stress levels among students affect their memory and academic performance. Hupbach and Dorskind (2014) conduct a correlational study with the objective of asking whether it is possible to specifically reactivate particular elements of a declarative memory, and then impact the reconsolidation of these features with a strain manipulation. The sample comprises of sixty males between 18-30 years (Hupbach & Dorskind, 2014). Participants were mostly male graduate and undergraduate learners from Lehigh University and were brought in the study via online adverts. They received monetary compensation as a token of appreciation for taking part in the study. However, the ultimate sample comprised of 58 healthy male participants because data from two respondents were excluded to achieve a stable standard deviation (Hupbach & Dorskind, 2014). The participants were subjected to various images including those showing animals and of unrelated objects. Each participant was required to memorize the images they encounter. Participants interacted with half of the images forty-eight hours later in an unrelated context while being subjected to varying stressors (Hupbach & Dorskind, 2014). The participants engaged again in a free recall test after forty-eight hours where it emerged that some students could not recall some images due to the stressors. However, reactivation impacted positively on memory performance. The chief strength in the research is that the researchers give in-depth and vivid description of each step in the study. However, the main limitation is that the study uses certain complex analytical forms that may not be easy to understand, especially for learners or audiences that are not conversant with how such analytical forms work.  


The study reiterates the significance of avoid stress among students to avoid tampering with memory as well as academic performance. A literature review of various sources indicate that stress is harmful and learners should avoid it as much as possible to maintain good performance in school. The review indicates that male students are more likely to experience stress that affect their memory compared to female learners and attribute the difference to the use of contraceptives among female learners. The analysis shows that whereas some allowable level of stress can boost memory, unacceptable or unbearable levels make it difficult to retrieve memory and increase the likelihood for performing poorly in classwork.


Cornelisse, S., Stegeren, A., & Joels, M. (2011). Implications of psychosocial stress on memory formation in a typical male versus female student sample. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36(4), 569-578.

Hupbach, A., & Dorskind, J. (2014). Stress selectively affects the reactivated components of a declarative memory. Behavioral Neuroscience, 128(5), 614-620.

Vogel, S., & Schwabe, L. (2016). Learning and memory under stress: Implications for the classroom. npj Science of Learning, 1(16011),

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